POLITICKING THE ANTI-TERRORIST MECHANISIM


POLITICKING THE ANTI-TERRORIST MECHANISIM

P.N.Ganjoo
ll politicians in India, both from the ruling clique as well as the opposition are past masters in opposing for the sake of opposing. In fact they have made a fine art of this tool of political maneuvering to sustain themselves and remain relevant in present day India. They do not hesitate to play politics even where vital stakes of national solidarity and security are concerned. On 12th of January 2012, the Cabinet Committee on Security of India approved to set up the National Counter Terrorist Centre to integrate and coordinate planning for anti-terrorist measures at the national level. Core areas of information and intelligence collection, investigation and prosecution as well as issues of warrants, search and seizure with a view to combat terrorist menace were covered. The move came to surface after the Central Govt. issued an Executive Memorandum to put in place this new entity called NCTC as a coordinated and cohesive mechanism against terrorism.

Immediately, several Chief Ministers from different states opposed the formation of such an entity. These were the CMs from opposition ruled states of Odessa, Punjab, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Tripura, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Even Trinimool Congress of Mamta Banerjee from West Bengal, a coalition ally of UDA at the centre joined the chorus of opposition. CM Omer Abdullah of J&K also seems to be in two minds though his state has suffered the worst due to terrorist turmoil. Even the governors of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka have conveyed their reservations on the creation of NCTC.

The proposed NCTC is aimed to create an anti-terrorist center in order to integrate and coordinate all activities of various security agencies to detect and forestall terrorist attacks that could emanate from different sources. At present security agencies work in different directions and rarely share intelligence inputs with each other. This executive order was born from the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 2008, which was created as a knee jerk reaction against brutal and dastardly terrorist attack on Mumbai on 26th of November 2008. 187 Indians and Foreigners had been killed and more than 300 had been maimed then. Before announcing formation of NCTC, due process of consultation was done by the Govt. The leader of opposition from Rajya Sabha was consulted by the Home Minister so that entire public opinion was carried with the move. The proposal had been under consideration of the Govt. for full two years .The Govt. was duly sensitized to the issues at hand before coming out with the final document.

There can be no two opinions on the need for quick and timely responsive reactions of the security forces to the terrorist intents and plans whenever and wherever they manifest. But our existing architecture does not allow that because different agencies charged with countering different hues of terrorism do not work in tandem and cohesion. On the contrary they continue to work in their respective domains independently and even shirk and resist sharing their information and intelligence inputs with others. This has resulted in substantial damage by terrorists even when intentions of the terrorists ware fore known. The scenario becomes grimmer when it is feared that some terrorist groups can have access to nuclear arsenals even. Presently there is a plethora of information and intelligence collection systems in place with different security agencies in the country. They are able to collect and sieve a vast sea of informations.There are the local police and agencies like the CID and Crime Branch, Central Intelligence Collection agencies like IB, RAW, CBI and EOIA and Para-military intelligence agencies for BSF, CRPF, ISBT, and ITSF. All of them collect huge banks of intelligence through their sources but hesitate to share the same with other agencies apprehending breach of their monopoly. So terrorist attacks occur with regular frequency even when these agencies are posted with information of such acts in, advance.

NCTC is therefore required to be fleshed with full powers of search, arrest and seizure to nab the terrorists before they are able to strike. In the proposed formation it will be a Central Agency which will target different hues of terrorists with new powers vested in it. But before such a central entity could take shape with full powers and responsibilities some local satraps and opposition members stood in arms to object to its formation on various grounds. CMs from Odessa, Punjab, Bihar, Tamilnadu and Himachal in particular objected to the formation of NCTC feeling that its creation will encroach on powers of the federating states. They allege that NCTC basically targets against federal structure of the Constitution of India. As the architecture will work under the Home Minister of India, they along with some members of the ruling Congress party itself apprehend that it will make the HM of the country the most powerful person in the central Govt.They claim it can also be a security risk as NCTC is proposed to be vested with vast and sweeping powers against apprehended terrorists. This, they fear, is more dangerous and risky in the present scenario when loose and imbecile coalitions work in which members are erratic, arrogant and irresponsible. They claim that its formation will be against the basic tenets of federalism as maintenance of law and order is jurisdiction of states as envisaged by the Constitution. They also plead that such sweeping powers need not be vested in a single person which can be misused. The opposition and some CMs feel that the structure, nature and powers of such magnitude can not come into existence without the willing consent and cooperation of federating states and state security forces. They apprehend that overt actions of NCTC could even expose its acts to public scrutiny and judicial intervention which will hinder efficacy of operations. The custodial death in such cases which result from occasional shoot outs in anti-terrorist measures can evoke unnecessary and irritating intervention of courts which is always counter productive. In case central intelligence agencies provide some inputs to NCTC to operate upon it will evoke such public criticism which will generate negative reaction of the media and judicial intervention .These moves can hinder operations. This can in turn immobilize the security agencies because terrorists work through surprise and ambush. Even in the US A the NCTC could not prevent terrorists from infiltrating and attacking as per their wish and choice.

All these concerns and apprehensions regarding functions and powers of NCTC indeed needed to be addressed. So a series of meetings of Home Secretary of Union Govt. and Home Secretaries and DGPs of state governments were held to review the proposed powers of search, arrest and seizure of NCTC. Though some of them suggested removing such powers from NCTC as advocated by their political masters yet majority of these law enforcement agencies were in favor of creation of a strong NCTC with sharp teeth to gnaw at the terrorist menace. But genuine concerns need to be taken care of while operating the rules for the proposed formulation. State’s suggestions that NCTC should have joint powers with the states in Joint operations are not tenable simply for the reason that unanimity of proposed action cannot be ensured and the process of discussion between states and the centre could lead to delay and resultant leaks and inaction. The order regarding the formulation of NCTC was therefore frozen in the month of Feb 2012 for want of consensus.

Though all these arguments against vesting vast powers in NCTC sound rational, yet we have to bear it in mind that India was consolidated as a Union of States after integrating more then 500 small states and principalities by the builder of Modern India Sardar Patel.The founding fathers of constitution took it upon themselves to give us a constitution which is a loose federation with a unitary character. But with law and order vested with the states, India has not been able to deal with terrorism effectively. We have been grappling with internal and external terrorism and subversion in J&K, Assam, Nagaland, Punjab, and Tamilnadu. The latest manifestation is Naxilite terrorism which has swept vast swathes of mainland India and seems to be gnawing at the body politic of India. Whether all these terrorist manifestations are foreign supported and sponsored or bred by internal subversion and disruption, the Indian state has yet to evolve an effective anti-terror management mechanism.

In order to establish a conducive and peaceful environment for the citizens of India to grow and flourish there is need to even subjugate voluntarily some rights and obligations as has been done in so many western democracies. Such steps will be in the best national , which no Indian can grudge and ignore. We need not to hesitate to grant more powers to the executive to enable it to pre-empt terrorists and anti-national elements from disruption and subversion. We have an active and vibrant judiciary to guard the legitimate interests and aspirations of law abiding citizens.

The Home Minister had fixed a meeting with the CMs to discuss and sort out irritations and résistance of the states. Will the states and the non state actors rise above petty politics in the national interest?

*P.N.Ganjoo was born in a modest Kashmiri family about 7 decades ago, lost his father early and was raised by his honest, hardworking mother. With her efforts he received his education in Srinagar and went on to serve in various Government Departments before retiring as a senior grade KAS officer.

Presently he is working on his varied interests besides being a consulting Director of a software services company.

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